Unbeknownst to me, I once wore a wedding dress to the office. It was an unremarkable summer’s day, and I dressed in a white midi-dress from the 1950s with strips of broderie anglaise and a nipped waist. They were, of course, the Vogue offices, but beyond that, it was by no means a “big day.” Only many months later did I happen upon an Etsy listing for the exact same vintage dress at a bridal shop. If one man’s trash is another’s treasure, I reckoned one woman’s wedding dress could just as well be another’s workaday white dress.
I enjoy getting dressed up: to the office, yes, but that’s just the start of it. As our parties editor, on most pre-pandemic mornings, I would pad into the office with a garment bag containing the evening’s look—some divine A-line puff gown shaped like a croquembouche or a dress so sculptural it could almost stand on its own. My evening ensembles were the highlight of the day. After finishing up work, I headed to the ladies’ room where I would slip into something a lot less comfortable but a lot more me. Part of my job’s appeal was that it allowed me to board a flight of fancy. The destination was one filled with ball gowns, vintage cocktail dresses, satin shoes, and beaded clutches—things completely out of sync with our times (even more so now) and more in line with that of Hollywood’s golden age. Edith Head heroines (Audrey Hepburn, Natalie Wood, Grace Kelly) and midcentury vintage have long fueled my fashion fantasies. Each event was a chance to style myself accordingly.
Of course, the fantasy was slightly altered because I had to work at each party. Interviews with a heavily diamonded chairwoman expounding on her record-breaking fundraising year, casual inquiries in the powder room as to whom a nearby model was wearing, waiting patiently at Cipriani alongside several hundred other obedient partygoers for Rihanna to show up to her own Diamond Ball hours late—well worth it. It was all part of the glamorous carousel ride, and it would all come to a screeching halt.
For the first month of quarantine, I woke and fell asleep to the sight of a tulle Carolina Herrera dress hanging on a hook in my bedroom. It’s one of the more pleasant visions that belongs to the blur that I associate with the start of the pandemic: a New York Times map growing redder, cylinders of Clorox wipes, and a gleaming white USNS Comfort entering New York Harbor.
I had planned to wear the dress to the annual Frick Collection’s Young Fellows Ball, an event that ended up not happening at all. The strapless black tulle midi gown was a borrowed sample from the designer’s publicity team, snug around the bodice and waist then jutted on into a stiff, lampshade-like silhouette. When I had picked it out it was spring, not a pandemic, that was looming, and the gown’s embroidery of brilliantly colored flowers was just absolutely perfect for the moment. Like a modern-day Miss Havisham, I kept the dress hanging right where it had been since the morning of the canceled gala for several weeks. It took me a full month to snap out of the early-quarantine fog and comprehend the gown-less, celebration-less reality of our new normal.
One year later—after my world (and the world) was flipped on its head—I’ve adjusted. Though there was a lot that I missed, I was quick to put things into perspective. What was a social life when my health and happiness were intact? Plus, I’ve always had a knack for injecting glamour into unsuspecting moments, and so I would do the same for this gaping stretch of absolutely nothing.
I took to researching how my beloved screen-siren muses got dressed between films and projects. Family snapshots of Jackie at Hyannis Port gave me headscarves, Audrey cycling around the set of My Fair Lady gave me gingham pants, and Capucine in The Pink Panther instructed me to wear a white turtleneck beneath a black V-neck sweater. I was pretty much set with year-round options for weekend and after-work looks—a genre of clothing that was previously an afterthought of mine. Can the perfect black cropped pant that goes with everything and shows off just the right amount of ankle be as exciting as, say, a tulle Carolina Herrera dress? Per my most recent findings—a pair of secondhand trousers from The Row—that answer is a resounding yes.
A year later, I’ve since returned the dress and moved apartments. The Frick has also moved an avenue eastward and five blocks north to the Breuer Building. Things won’t ever be the same, but they say they’ll be a renaissance—a second Roaring Twenties will come swinging in with a raucous commingling of creatives and thinkers doing what they do best. Count on me to be there, with bells on.